Last Saturday I walked into The Works in Didcot to look for some cheap literature to get me through the week. Unsurprisingly, I was faced with novels about murderers, real life serial killer biographies and Nazi documentaries. Christ, we’re obsessed with it. Death, murder, death, genocide, torture, death and the more macabre the better. What the hell is wrong with us? Therefore, it’s not surprising that most of Netflix and Amazon Prime’s original output is about the darker side of humanity. Killers Anonymous is no different.
The preliminary blurb of Killers Anonymous depicts a help group for killers; AA for murderers if you like. We are initially presented with the botched killing of a US senator, Jessica Alba’s Jade fucks it up and has to meet ‘the man’ Gary Oldman in a London boozer to explain her failure. She is then quickly deposed of by another of Oldman’s hench(wo)men before we are thrown into the bosom of the evening’s emergency meeting of the group in a secret room under a church in the City.
We are then introduced to the remaining cast; Ben (Langridge) is an ex-military man who killed his best friend as a child, Leo (Socha) is a serial murderer who has worked his trade through gangster contacts, Calvin (the wonderful Tim McInnerny) is a Shipman-esque doctor who enjoys watching his patients die, Joanna (Buring) is the head of the group and a vicar, Marcus (Flanagan) is a low rent hit-man. Only Alice is an enigma, her real identity one of the few question marks of the movie.
Given the 90 minute run-time there are simply too many characters to fit into the story. We start by seeing flashbacks of Ben and Leo’s histories but time runs out before anyone else gets such privilege. An hour approaches before we see anything of mild interest (someone sneaking around the air conditioning pipes), the majority of the time taken up by the killers talking to each other.
You can’t really criticise the acting, even though Oldman dials in his extended cameo and Alba is dead before the popcorn has settled. The problem is that their roles are so stereotypical; Flanagan’s Marcus is your archetypal Glaswegian low-rent hit-man, Leo is your guilt-ridden gang member, Krystal is a mysterious ‘female assassin ™’. No-one is allowed out of their type because of numbers and running time. Violet especially seems to be written solely to give Oldman someone to share a scene with.
When the sting finally hits, it doesn’t feel enough to make up for the subtly leading up to it. Killers Anonymous ends up as a laboured conspiratory mess with a tiresome final bloody battle. The look of the movie is wonderful (thanks to DOP Håvard Helle); a bright, warm, neon demon of a film up with any imaginary Wes Anderson horror. Killers Anonymous tries to be a Tarantino/early Ritchie movie, bleaching 80s pop culture into its cooler than fuck characters. The problem is that the dialogue is simply not there. This film needed sharp witty one liners to work, and none appear. It struggles between a sub-Reservoir Dogs and a John Wick origins story, yet falls short of each.
Killer Anonymous feels like it was two or three script rewrites away from something really special, but the tedium of the dialogue and the uneven backstories of the characters leave it somewhere in the ‘handy to find on Netflix on a Friday night’ category, rather than something of true cinematic worth.